What Do You Do When a Guy Talks About Himself All The Time?

Hi Evan,

Had a date that I met on-line a few weeks ago. Just went for coffee and a muffin (first date). However, I have run into this situation many times and do not know how to handle it. The date (male) spent the whole time talking about himself. Asked nothing about my life. Had two conversations with him on the phone prior to our meeting, and all he did was talk about himself. (There was “the writing on the wall.”) He was attractive and polite and seemed decent but there was this issue.  I was not his type anyway, so he is out of the picture. However, this problem still needs to be addressed. I also dated someone for a few months and he, also, talked about himself only. Was thinking of seeking professional help with this one since it is common. Thought of saying, if it comes up again, “How about we spend the time we have dividing the conversation between half of the time about you and half about me?” Is this a realistic tactic or should I just write the person off? 

Please advise.

Jackie

Dear Jackie,
Did I ever tell you about the time that I was out with this woman from JDate? We had talked on the phone for a little bit before meeting, did a bunch of IMing, but when we went for drinks, she must have had a three hour monologue prepared. I couldn’t get in a word edgewise. The fact that I ended up making out with her that night couldn’t disguise my utter contempt for her disinterest in me. Her four minute long voice mail when I never called again was an instant classic.

And then there was the time that I met a JDate girl on the phone who had recently broken up with her boyfriend of six years. And when I asked her if she was really ready to date, she gave me a very detailed explanation. It was more of a dissection, really, of everything that went wrong between the two of them. Finally, when I sensed that my “uh-huhs” and “yeahs” didn’t seem to matter much, I put down the phone and went into the bathroom. From there, I proceeded to take off my clothes, brush my teeth, wash my face, take out my contacts and return to the phone, where this poor woman was STILL talking about the demise of her relationship. I never ended up making out with her, since I told her that I put down the phone on her. True story.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you ask a question? That was so rude of me.

So enough about me. What do YOU think about me?

My apologies for all the jokes, Jackie. But what else can you do but laugh when your dates go horribly awry?

Thankfully, you’ve already taken responsibility for your minor part in the bad date; namely, that you shouldn’t even have gone out with the narcissist after your one-sided phone conversations.

But I do think you’re sort of missing it if you’re going to try that clunky line about dividing half of the conversation. Honestly, you’re not splitting a cake here; you’re supposed to be getting to know each other.

Conversation is like a tennis match – it’s back and forth and it takes two people to take a game to the next level. If you’re hitting volleys and he’s hitting the ball to himself, well, it’s no surprise that your matches haven’t been particularly memorable.

But you already know this. What you may not have considered is that good conversationalists aren’t necessarily the best talkers. They’re the best listeners. And sometimes, by being a good listener, and asking the right questions, you can create an opening for your date to be a better listener as well….

Believe me, it’s not a perfect science. You may ask a question that unintentionally leads to a twenty-minute diatribe about his office politics. By the same token, you may subtly steer the talk down a different road, one that applies to you. That’s when you need to jump in and share YOUR stories. Don’t wait for an invitation from him. Just listen to him tell you about his timeshare in Puerto Rico, and then bring up your tales from Costa Rica. If you’re a good storyteller, he may even want to ask a question about it. (Or, more likely, start telling you about his upcoming trip to the Bahamas).

Frankly, I think most folks are good people but very bad daters. They see the date as one of two things. First, they see it as an audition, a chance to impress their date with all of their credentials and A-List stories. Then there are those who see a date as an interview, where they’re the boss, trying to suss out the serious candidates. Those are the kind people who ask you if you’re serious about getting married before they even find out where you grew up. The problem is that both people – the show-off and the boss – have an agenda – either to impress, or to not waste their time.

Both agendas are unattractive.

The one thing I would implore you to do differently is to forgive these yappers for their clueless sins. They might as well be third grade boys who are pulling your hair for attention. I’m not saying you have to like them, or that you have to go out with them again. All I’m saying is that these guys are trying to share a piece of themselves and are hoping that you’ll eagerly receive it.

What they haven’t yet realized is that the way to your heart is to LISTEN to you.

But that’s another column for another day…

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Datedemon

    I think that response was excellent. I completely agree with the date often being viewed as almost an interview or audition. It might also help if you are a girl and this happens to you, to think outside the box a little. If you ask him the basic “interview” style questions then it might put him in auto pilot telling his whole life story. A good idea may be to ask him something that is out of the ordinary and that might really intrigue him into wanting to converse more with you on this interesting topic and get your thoughts. That way he can’t just spew out a robotic 10 minute response.

  2. 2
    Roger

    Fortunately, I have not run into this situation too often with women. (Maybe guys are worse than the women when it comes to talking about themselves?)

    It amazes me that that anyone over the age of 18 would not have figured out how rude and boring it is to engage in monologue conversations. Personally, I suggest not wasting your time, ever, with someone who goes on and on about themselves. One date is more than enough with that type.

  3. 3
    mrs. vee

    Another point to consider is whether or not you, Jackie, are lively and animated enough in conversation. The problem obviously isn’t that you don’t want to share more about yourself with him, but it does sound like you’re not being aggressive about seizing your share of the conversation. You sound like a very polite conversationalist. In fact, your letter reminded me of my best friend. She’s a total sweetheart and complains that every guy she dates monopolizes the conversation and similarly only talks about himself. What she’s unaware of is the fact that she is polite, shy, and quiet to the point of seeming closed off during initial encounters. I can envision why it’s a natural response for a guy to compensate for what seems like flagging conversational energy by talking about the one topic he knows best – himself. Granted he’s not off the hook for not asking more questions about you. But if you already seem closed off and uncomfortable, then he may actually think he’s doing you a favor by steering the subject matter away from you. I’m not saying you are like my friend – well-mannered but painfully quiet – but it does seem like you’re dealing with a patterned response here with multiple guys, just like her, and the only constant throughout all the various dates is YOU.

    People have different colloquial styles. To extend Evan’s tennis analogy… some expect conversation to be a polite, gentle rally – “your turn, then my turn, ewld chap”. Others, like the guys you’ve been going out with apparently, barely wait for the ball to make it onto their side of the net before they come charging back at it with an overhead smash. It doesn’t necessarily indicate a character flaw if a person expects you to play a little more offense.

    Maybe the fact that you’re both playing a different game signals you’re incompatible . Or perhaps it may simply mean you could bring a little more energy to the conversation.

  4. 4
    SIR ISAAC FIG NEWTON

    I have this theory that we all do a bit of subconscious “social algebra” in our heads while interacting with others whether out with friends or on a first. Evan may deem it too “out there” and decide not to display it and I’m not sure I’d blame him if he did, but here it is anyway …

    Let’s say everything about your being (personality, past experiences…) dictates that for you, the optimal energy for any interpersonal interaction is a value of 10. For you the equation is x + y = 10. So you’re x, and the other person supplies the y. If your date’s y is a 7, then you respond with a 3 to bring the energy of the conversation to the level at which you’re most comfortable. 7 + 3 = 10, right. If however, you’re with a more mellow talker who gives off a 2 (in terms of stuff like volume of voice, expressions, gestures and openness of discussion content) you may feel the need to bring an 8 to the exchange to once again have everything add up to a 10.

    (We’ll ignore the fact for now that there are seemingly infinite variables that can confound the quality of an exchange. eg. a person’s ideal comfort level may not be the same as your 10, but a 25, and you don’t even have it in you to go above 10. Or a person may have less precise control of his energy spigot, so he wants to give off a 9 but only succeeds at producing a 6. Then the whole equation changes again when there are more than 2 people involved in an interaction.)

    Anyway, my point is that the men you date may be just doing this algebra and may perceive you as a 2, which is why they’re bringing their 8 game to the table. And maybe we can take this one step further and say that social compatibility ideally looks something like 5+5 =10.

    Or maybe it’s a good thing that Evan is the one who writes dating advice for a living because in hindsight, my “theory” seems only nominally useful as a metaphor.

    Keep up the good work Evan, because people will always need you to explain things more plainly than I just did. ;).

  5. 5
    Erika

    I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies. A man and a woman are sitting on a train. The man jabbers incessantly. Then he finally asks the woman, “Cat got your tongue?” She says, “It seems to me you’re doing just fine by yourself.” And turns away.

    There are a few things you can say to someone to gently remind them that conversation is a two-way street.

    The first one is to say flirtatiously, “Enough about you, now back to me!”

    The other thing to do, when someone interrupts you before you are finished, is to say, “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t finished.”

    Keep doing that until they get the point.

    If it’s said the right way, it will clue the other person in on what a clod they’ve been.

  6. 6
    Jessica

    This is something that I have encountered.. except that I tend to be the one who is attempting to get someone else to talk. I naturally want to chit chat, and can with just about anyone… but, I find it hard to find a guy who will talk let alone ask questions about me. I have tried several different techniques, but can rarely get someone to talk to me…

    I am not sure that I agree with Erika regarding “I’m sorry, I’m not finished yet” comment. That can come off as cold and rude… It has to be played right, and with a common level of trust which generally isn’t there on a first date…

  7. 7
    Annie

    I guess everyone has encountered one of those “me,me,me” guys…I am no exception. A guy I was introduced to by one of my friends, turned out to be the worse experience I ever had!! Not only he was interested only in himself, but he insults people and diminish them while he tries to boost his poor ego! Ten minutes after meeting this guy, using his “funny voice” he said “you are the cutest dwarf I have ever met!” and he followed that patting my head! Needless to say I was totally surprised by his attitude…considering he was fifty years old! I was so surprised, I could not react for a while, until the next insult came…that was it…walked away and then he said I was being rude!!
    Some people should carry a warning sign on their backs!

  8. 8
    Matty

    Lol, okay. So I have to confess, I’m 18 years old and I’m DEFINITELY a one-sided guy. I’m a poor conversationalist, I know. But try to understand me with this.. When I’m talking about myself, I’m more-so waiting for the person to tell me about themselves. I may be going on and on, but it’s just because I don’t like silence. I pause frequently, waiting for the other person to speak.. They take too long so I keep going. It happens all the time. I meet quite a few people who do engage back with me though and the conversation does get interesting.. but I’ll admit, I don’t see these people often again.

    After reading this, I feel more encouraged to sit and listen and ask my (horrible) questions.. but when it gets silent, my mouth is going to open and whether or not it’s going to stop decides on you.

  9. 9
    Steve

    Matty;

    I had a similar problem when I was your age. The solution takes a lot of practice, but it is fairly simple. Ask the other person questions.

    If you still get a lot of awkward silences that person is not a good fit for you. Enjoy the date if you can’t cut it short and move on.

  10. 10
    Karl R

    Matty said: (#8)
    Im a poor conversationalist, I know [...] I may be going on and on, but its just because I dont like silence.

    Matty,
    Instead of talking to fill the silence, ask a question and get her to help fill the silence.

    There are two types of questions that work well in this situation: questions that require multi-sentence answers, or questions that lead to more questions.

    Lets say Im talking to someone that I dont know well. I can ask, How is your week going? or How was your weekend? She may give a multi-sentence answer, or she may give a short answer. A short answer will be some version of Good or Bad. Even if she says Okay, her tone of voice will probably suggest that its good or bad.

    Lets say she had a good weekend. You can ask her What did you do? or What happened? in a tone of voice that makes you sound like youre interested in the answer. If she had a bad weekend, you can ask her What went wrong? or What happened? in a tone of voice that makes you sound like youre concerned. (It helps if you really are interested or concerned, but you should sound that way even if youre not.)

    Pay attention to each answer she gives, because it can lead to another question.

    Sometimes shell answer your question with a short answer and a question of her own: My weekend was good. How was yours? Instead of using this as an excuse to launch into a long monologue about your weekend, you can turn it around: My weekend was busy but fun. What did you do?

    Its considered good form to remember some of the things she says in one conversation so you can bring them up in a later conversation. If she tells you shes going to the beach with her best friend, you can ask her how the beach was after that trip.

    And practice being a good conversationalist with everyone not just girls youre interested in.

    1. 10.1
      Roslyn

      Karl R,   You are so right!    I really dislike people who don’t engage enough to remember what I said and move the conversation on with that topic.    Judge Judy has a wonderful saying:  “Put your listening ears on” as people are always thinking of what they will say which is irrelevant to what was said.
       

  11. 11
    Stephen

    Great article!  I had three dates with a woman who never stops talking about herself.  When I start talking she looks away, watches TV and seems very uninterested.  When I told her we needed to stop seeing each other she was surprised and sent me a text to that affect.  So I decided to try again and she again went on and on.  So I started interviewing her and asked her questions which she thoroughly answered.  By the time the night ended she was hoarse.  I personally think she is very insecure.  I like her stories but it would be nice if she let me talk and showed some interest.  I will probably keep going out with her to see if her demeanor changes.  I almost wonder if she is so tired of listening to guys that she decided to take charge on her own.  I can be nice but I’m not going to get too much older listening to her stories of her business.

  12. 12
    judy

    Stephen 11 – snap! I once went out with a man who just did not stop talking.  On his own.  It drove everyone mad.  The first date, I thought he was nervous.  The second date, I was wondering about him and by the third, he drove me crazy.
    He rang me to know why I disappeared.  It ain’t just the men who do it.
    It would have been kind and sweet of me to explain to him that his incessant jabbering drove me mad.  But the reality of it is…….I just could not imagine that every single day of the week.  And thought it wiser to stop the relationship.

    1. 12.1
      Roslyn

      Judy,  Unfortunately you lost/dismissed him with reasons.   He’ll use that for someone else’s benefit!!   Perhaps.

  13. 13
    Olga Nrduna

    Great response…..just made me laugh because that is exactly what is happening to me.  In fact, I did the same as you…..put the phone down and kept doing my thing….until finally he said goodbye…thank God because I almost had a nervous breakdown!

  14. 14
    judy

    Annie 7 – how rotten. 
    I heard someone cope with a windbag very nicely and courteously.  She started by saying to him, great, we’ve got a whole hour together.  So let’s share it.  Do you want to start the talking and I’ll join in after you’ve said something?
    One could disagree with the content, but the approach is rather sweet, isn’t it?

  15. 15
    Star

    This is so darn true that some guys only talk about themselves. I called this guy once and he kept talking and talking and at the end of the conversation he goes ” i talked 80% of the time and u talked 20%”. I felt so offended because reason he was talking was because i eas initiating the conversation by asking him interesting questions. He on the other hand kept saying “so what else is new” “tell me more” and the worst “talk more, pick a topic and keep going”. i think it feels insulting when the other person thinks they know it all and that they can talk about so much. So often these people dont clnsider your feelings and sometimes make you feel stupid. I think if a guy is genuinely interested in you, he wont push you to talk and will ask reasonable questions to give you time to talk. There was another guy i had talked with on the phone. and my concersation with him was amazing. its like we both were not trying too hard to impress the other person so there was less pressure on both of us. I do not like over confident lunatic talked who think they know it all and have it all. 

  16. 16
    Gina

    I just had a date with a guy who went on and on about himself, which I know is a way for a guy to try and impress a girl, but instead of a date, I felt like a sounding board.  Whenever I would try to bring something up about myself, he used that to get right back into the spotlight.

  17. 17
    cheryl

    So the long and short of the story is to just cut them off as quickly as possible. There’s nothing you can do for a guy or girl who just talks about themselves nonstop. I just met someone and he talks all the time about himself. I even asked him …”is there anything you want to know about me?” He paused and said. “Well it will come up…” When! When will it come up? Yeah I’m over it.

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